Ryan Miller

What’s next for the Buffalo Sabres?

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Even before the season began, expectations were low for the Buffalo Sabres and rumors about Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller’s future were persistent as they entered their contract seasons.

They’ve underperformed even by the low standards applied to them and less than a month into the season, Vanek has been shipped to the New York Islanders in exchange for a first round pic, a second rounder, and forward Matt Moulson.

So what is the next step for the Sabres? If nothing else, this move left them with plenty of options.

There’s still months before the trade deadline, so they have plenty of time to decide whether they want to re-sign Moulson before his contract expires this summer or trade him for more draft picks and/or prospects. Moulson is a capable top-line forward and averaged nearly a point-per-game last season, so he’s likely to fetch a decent price if they opt to move him.

This will obviously also fuel the trade rumors surrounding Miller, but it sounds like nothing is imminent on that front either.

“I’ve really had no discussions of late with respect to any of our other potential free agents,” Sabres GM Darcy Regier told reports during last night’s press conference. “Ryan continues to play extremely well, as I know all of you know. Between him and Jhonas has really been at the forefront of terrific efforts of our hockey team right from the start.”

He also doesn’t want to completely write off this season despite the team’s 2-10-1 start.

“I think it will depend on how quickly and how much we can get the team to jell and get the players to grow and a combination of those two things,” Regier said. “I don’t know the answer to that, but I can tell you the younger players are growing right now. They are getting better. The team is getting better.”

How the Sabres do in the coming months will be another key factor, but clearly Regier is looking to the future and has made a commitment to building through the draft. Because of that, this probably isn’t the last blockbuster trade Buffalo will be involved in this season.

Related:

Vanek’s agent says no extension with Isles just yet

Moulson’s agent says they’re ‘open-minded’ about Sabres’ plans

Snow on Vanek trade: Isles ‘need to take the next step’

PHT Morning Skate: Jagr doesn’t understand why Peyton Manning would retire after winning the Super Bowl

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Jaromir Jagr doesn’t believe Peyton Manning should retire. (ESPN)

Victor Hedman wrote about “How We Play Hockey in Sweden” for The Players’ Tribune.

–Did the Senators make a smart move by acquiring Dion Phaneuf? (Sportsnet)

–And if you have a Maple Leafs jersey with Phaneuf’s name on the back, the Sens want to dispose of it:

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Rangers and Penguins. (Top of the page)

–A Zoolander tribute to Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. (Puck Daddy)

Steven Stamkos had a run-in with the paparazzi in Montreal. (Bardown)

Sidney Crosby‘s confidence could be dangerous for the rest of the league:

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.